Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Once upon a time, Steven Spielberg used to be one of the most influential directors ever lived in the modern generation who spawned hits after hits that impresses the critics as well as many viewers around the world. But in 2011, his much-anticipated return to the director's seat after the 2008's INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL proves to be a mediocre year for him. First off, he made the highly-anticipated animated adventure THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, which is fairly entertaining in parts but rather predictable in its overall execution. The second one is WAR HORSE, a would-be epic tale that combines a heartwarming children's drama mixed with World War I undertones. Spielberg should have no problem executing such genre, but it's really surprising that WAR HORSE is all about great visuals but falls terribly short in narrative structure and emotional factor.
Plastic surgery takes a bizarre turn-of-event in Pedro Almodovar's latest psychodrama THE SKIN I LIVE IN. Think of it like an episode of TV's Nip/Tuck mixed with the usual Almodovar's pet themes of sexual identity, death, betrayal and loneliness wrapped in a warped fashion. Not only that, it's refreshing to see Almodovar reunites with Antonio Banderas after they had successfully collaborated together in 1990's TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN!
After attracting a sizable amount of controversy in 2009's ANTICHRIST, Danish bad-boy director Lars von Trier continues to explore his theme of depression with an unconventional take of end-of-the-world disaster drama called MELANCHOLIA.
In this final DEATH WISH series and also Charles Bronson's last theatrical appearance, it's a slight of relief that DEATH WISH 5: THE FACE OF DEATH is considerably restrained in term of sex and over-the-top violence that characterized the previous sequels. But it's hardly any good either, as this fifth installment transcends from mindless action genre to a contemporary splatter flick and worst of all, it's so butt-numbingly pathetic.
Over-the-top lunacy continues in the wildly exploitative DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN. It's still formulaic and preposterous, but in term of guilty-pleasure entertainment, this fourth installment wins as one of the most outrageously entertaining action movies ever made back in the 1980s.
Genre exploitation and excessive factor takes on a shockingly absurd level in DEATH WISH 3 -- the third series of the surprisingly profitable franchise which is as mindless as the second movie. But at least it's fast-paced enough to warrant this as a guilty-pleasure exercise.
One of the most influential movies of the 1970s, DEATH WISH was a landmark genre that chronicles on a man who takes the law into his own hands, which was better known as vigilante.
Monday, 30 January 2012
During the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, no other movies has arrived more scandalized and controversial than Lars von Trier's new movie called ANTICHRIST. When his movie was first premiered at the festival, it was reportedly that four people were fainted due to the movie's explicit violence. Not only that, many of the audience members who watches it ended up either booing or laughing at the movie. Well, after finally watching the movie, I strongly agrees that ANTICHRIST is indeed everything you have read or heard of from the 2009 Cannes Film Festival -- a difficult movie that is both sickening, misogynistic, provocative and downright offensive. It's also the kind of movie that alienated those conventional viewers and I'm sure even some of the arthouse movie fans will find this a bit too much to watch for. But as Lars von Trier's first true foray into the horror genre, ANTICHRIST is strangely mesmerizing as long as you have an open mind. More on that later.
Sunday, 29 January 2012
After being left disappointed watching two big-screen reincarnations of THE PUNISHER (2004) and PUNISHER: WAR ZONE (2008), I'm really surprised those filmmakers couldn't even made a straight-up revenge movie in the right way. So here I am, revisiting the first movie attempt of THE PUNISHER which was created back in the late '80s. Unlike those two versions, this long-forgotten original attempt is surprisingly more entertaining and action-packed. But at the same time, it is also heavily flawed with plenty of hammy acting, poor production values as well as some questionable choice of directions -- with the most obvious reason like how come the filmmakers choose to ditch the trademark "skull" T-shirt and changes the origin of the character from ex-Vietnam vet to an ex-cop?
Monday, 23 January 2012
After 2009's lame prequel UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS hits an all-time low, you would have figure that the once-favorable UNDERWORLD series has finally exhausted its vision. Instead of calling it a quit, here comes UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING, a direct sequel to 2006's UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION. The good news is, this fourth installment is back with the same exciting vibe previously seen in the first two UNDERWORLD movies (namely plenty of slow-motion and stylish action sequences) and of course Kate Beckinsale, who returns in her iconic role as the half human/half vampire Selene. The bad news is, as always, is its half-realized plot, expository-laden dialogues and one-dimensional characters. So if you are looking for mass improvement in this latest UNDERWORLD series, you will be walking away disappointed. UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING is basically offering more of the same die-hard fans always come to expect.
Sunday, 22 January 2012
High octane action takes centre stage in Dante Lam's THE VIRAL FACTOR, which also marks his most expensive movie yet (at a whopping HK$200 million budget). Even though the plot takes a backseat this time (a forte that Dante Lam excels greatly 2010's award-winning THE STOOL PIGEON), THE VIRAL FACTOR is a solidly entertaining blockbuster that promises a lot of firepower equivalent with the one often found in Hollywood action trappings.
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
When I first seen the trailer late last year, my first thought for CONTRABAND is nothing but a generic thriller. And as it turns out, I wasn't wrong -- it is generic after all. Oh wait, it's awfully generic. Despite sporting a game cast of Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster and many others, everything about CONTRABAND is strictly by-the-numbers. To make matters worse than it already is, the movie is suffered miserably from labored pace and heavy-handed direction by Baltasar Kormakur.
Set in Northern China in the year of 1920s, the movie centres on a despicable warlord named General Bully Lei (Lau Ching-Wan) who uses the hypnotising skills of his butler, Liu Kunshan (Wu Gang), to recruit soldiers. Bully has seven wives altogether, but he particularly loves the seventh wife the most. Unfortunately, he has trouble trying to please her especially his seventh wife, Yin (Zhou Xun), whom he captured and grounded her at home, hates him a lot. Apparently, she misses her father, Liu Wanyao (Paul Chun) a lot, an elder magician who is actually being locked up somewhere by Liu Kunshan. It is learned that Kunshan wants Wanyao to reveal the whereabouts of a valuable scroll contains the magic formula of "7 Wonders". In the meantime, the mysterious Chang Hsien (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), a popular magician who returns to his homeland after years travelling abroad. He buys a restaurant which is about to go bankrupt and converts it into a magic theatre. Within a short period of time, his string of magic shows quickly becomes an overnight sensation. Not only that, he is also cooperating with a band of rebels looking to kidnap General Bully Lei in exchange to release one of their senior officers. But apparently, he has a personal agenda of his own against Lei, as it is revealed that Lei's seventh wife, Yin, is actually his fiancee.
Friday, 13 January 2012
Wu Chien-Lien plays Yan, a wanted criminal who killed a Mainland sex worker in Shenzhen to assume her identity to enter Hong Kong. Once there, she acts as a prostitute and picks up taxi driver Chen Chi Min (Wayne Lai) for the night. Yan finds out he lives on the outskirts of Hong Kong. He is divorced and has a family problem, where he leaves his little daughter Yin Yin (Yuki Lai) under the care of his mother (Bonnie Wong). After realising Chen Chi Min is the perfect victim for her, she begins her despicable plan by running him down with a car in order to cripple both of his legs and locks him down in his own home. She subsequently immobilises him by strapping him with lots of masking tape and prepares for the arrival of her husband (Moses Chan).
Tuesday, 10 January 2012
As one of the most anticipated Chinese movie blockbusters of the year, Zhang Yimou's THE FLOWERS OF WAR has been generated a lot of buzz lately. This is the first major Chinese movie that feature an Oscar-winning Hollywood star (Christian Bale, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2010's THE FIGHTER), earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language film, as well as being China's official entry for the upcoming 84th Academy Awards. If that's not enough, THE FLOWERS OF WAR is also the most expensive movie ever made in China at a whopping budget of more than $94 million to make (a huge sum equivalent to an average Hollywood blockbuster movie). Now here lies the biggest question: Does the movie lives up to its massive hype? I have to say THE FLOWERS OF WAR is an entertaining crowd-pleaser that make good use of its huge budget in staging some of the most exciting set pieces and top-notch production values you've ever seen this year. It's a pity the movie stumbles from Liu Heng's heavily melodramatic screenplay (which is based on a novel by Geling Yan's 13 Flowers of Nanjing) and some questionable direction by Zhang Yimou.
Monday, 9 January 2012
After the success of DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (2010), it's a huge relief that director Tsui Hark has finally found his groove back. When he announced his next movie would be the remake/re-telling/sequel-of-sorts (depends on how you look at it) to DRAGON INN (1992), the long-awaited arrival of FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE is certainly the kind of movie hard to ignore. After all, it's also the movie that marked the much-anticipated return of Tsui Hark and Jet Li, both collaborated for the first time since ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA (1997). Not only that, the movie also make history by being the first IMAX 3D wuxia movie ever made. However, despite all the hype, FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE is a fairly entertaining if heavily uneven movie that hardly qualifies among the best works from either Tsui Hark or Jet Li. Even its heavily-promoted 3D effects is at best, a mixed bag.
Wednesday, 4 January 2012
When I first saw the trailer in the cinema, I admit I was quite fascinated with THE DARKEST HOUR. It's a familiar alien invasion movie that doesn't rely on the overused U.S. setting often plagued in many like-minded Hollywood genres. But it was the concept that caught me the most attention: the invisible aliens who were capable of feeding on electricity and vaporized any form of living objects into cloud of ashes. It's a cool stuff to look at, and I can imagine how fun it could it have been if done right. Unfortunately that is hardly the case, because THE DARKEST HOUR turns out to be an (almost) complete ho-hum after all.